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b. The Inquisition_Inquisition 19/05/2011 16:15 Page 1

THE INQUISITION by Fernando Cervantes

All booklets are published thanks to the generous support of the members of the Catholic Truth Society

CATHOLIC TRUTH SOCIETY PUBLISHERS TO THE HOLY SEE


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Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 Changes in Attitude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 John Paul II’s ‘Apology’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

The Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 “Political Augustinianism” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13 Catharism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 Responding to Heresy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 Heresy as Treason . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20

The Medieval Inquisition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 Abuses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 An unbalanced picture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26

The Spanish Inquisition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 Religion in the medieval Spanish Kingdoms . . . . . . . . . . .29 Jews and Conversos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32 Violence against Conversos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34 Expulsion of Jews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 “To convert or to depart” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39 Judaisers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41 Muslims and Moriscos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45


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Tolerance towards Moriscos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48 A harder line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49 Expulsion of Moriscos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53 The Alumbrados . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .54 Protestantism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59 Lutheranism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61 Suppression of Protestantism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63 Auto de FĂŠ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .65

Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .69 Upholding the Truth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71


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 The Inquisition is undoubtedly one of the most readily available excuses for distrusting the Catholic Church. The very word inquisitio - first developed in the twelfth century as a legal term to describe a supervisory authority that investigated and judged suspected heretics - has become almost synonymous with obscurantist bigotry, intolerance, and cruelty. A “wild monster, of such strange form and horrible mien that all Europe trembles at the mere mention of its name”, wrote the Portuguese Jew Samuel Usque in the early sixteenth century.1 A “dreadful engine of tyranny” which “may at any time be introduced into a country where the Catholics have the ascendancy” and where “all laws and institutions are sacrificed to satiate the most bigoted vengeance”, wrote John Foxe some decades later.2 This attitude has been remarkably resilient. It emerges with predictable relish even in various historical accounts that claim to base themselves on factual evidence and careful documentary research. When the American 1

2

Quoted in David Raphael (ed.) The Expulsion 1492 Chronicles (Hollywood, 1992), p. 136. The Book of Martyrs (London, 1863 edn), p. 153.


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historian John Motley wrote his classic history of the Dutch Republic, first published in 1855, for example, he referred to the Spanish Inquisition as “a bench of monks without appeal, ... judging and executing its horrible decrees without responsibility”, delving into the private secrets of the “individual conscience”, and practising “all the forms of torture which the devilish ingenuity of the monk had invented”. “The imagination sickens”, he concluded, “when striving to keep pace with these dreadful realities”.3 Of course, modern Catholic sensibility also revolts against any notion of a society where, as Tennyson famously put it in his patriotic ballad The Revenge, “the thumbscrew and the stake” might be used “for the glory of the Lord”. And such revulsion is by no means new among Catholics: as early as the sixteenth century various Catholic Italian ambassadors already made reference to the terror induced by the Spanish Inquisition, referring to it as a hypocritical instrument created, not for the alleged purpose of purifying the Catholic faith, but for the more obvious and expedient purpose of robbing the Jews of their wealth. Similarly, in the late eighteenth century the German Catholic Andreas Zaupser referred to the

3

The Rise of the Dutch Republic (London, 1912 edn), p. 165.


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Inquisition as a “hag”, “a plague of reason and religion”, and a “murderess of the mind”.4 So there is nothing startlingly novel about Cardinal Joseph Frings’s famous attack on the modern successor of the Inquisition. During one of the early sessions of the Second Vatican Council, the Cardinal referred to the secrecy and censorship that he saw at work at the heart of the Church’s own central government as “a cause of scandal to the world”. Interestingly, one of Cardinal Frings’s chief advisers at the time was none other than Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who, shortly afterwards, went on to join other leading theologians in a statement that lamented that the church had “reins that are too tight, too many laws, many of which have helped to leave the century of unbelief in the lurch, instead of helping it to redemption”.5 Changes in Attitude What was new, however, was the way in which these opinions seemed likely to overturn the age-old teaching of the Church that had for centuries insisted that error had no rights and that it was therefore the duty of Christian states 4

Quoted in Christine Caldwell Ames, “Does the Inquisition Belong to Religious History?” American Historical Review 110.1 (February, 2005), p. 1.

5

Quoted in Eamon Duffy, “On the Other Side”, The Times Literary Supplement (16 December, 2005), p. 8.


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to foster Catholic truth and to suppress whatever was alien to it. Indeed, when in 1965 the Second Vatican Council issued its Declaration on Religious Liberty, clearly and unequivocally stating that freedom of religious thought and practice was a fundamental human right derived from the basic dignity and freedom of every human person as a child of God, many could not help but see it as a bold and potentially damaging initiative that might cast serious doubt on the teaching authority of the Church. After all, most Catholics at that time had been taught that the notion of religious freedom was one of the poisoned fruits of the Enlightenment: a sinful affront against the immutability of revealed truth. Heretics might hope for some degree of toleration as a matter of pragmatism and prudence, but for them to expect religious freedom and equal rights was tantamount to expecting the Church to accept that the truth was relative and that error had rights. It is not surprising that many Catholics at the time, notably Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, saw the Declaration as an abomination: an irresponsible and illegitimate decision that broke with a millennium and a half of constant Christian tradition. Yet the Church has not wavered. Every pontiff since the Council has acknowledged that the unfortunate history of involvement of the Church in persecution has discredited her in the


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eyes of the world and will continue to hinder her efforts to proclaim the dignity of every human person as redeemed by Christ. There can be no question about Pope John Paul II’s deep concern for this issue. In his 1994 encyclical letter, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, he exhorted Catholics to enter the new millennium with a clear awareness of their history, urging them to repent of “past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency and lack of courage”. Among these, the Pope specifically singled out the history of religious persecution. Accordingly, in the Autumn of 1998, the world’s leading historians of the Inquisition were invited to a symposium at the Vatican to assist the Church in a solemn act of “purification of memory in penitence” after confronting her own persecuting past. They were asked to present a collective picture of the history of the Inquisition in the presence of a theological commission that would then prepare a reflection for the Pope as the basis for an “apology” rather like the apology for the Shoah that he had published the previous year. John Paul II’s ‘Apology’ The unease felt by many of those present is not difficult to understand; for the theological commission worked strictly in line with the brief that John Paul II had set in Tertio Millennio Adveniente, where the Pope had


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carefully avoided any mention of the need for the institutional Church to repent, writing instead about “the children of the Church”. This subtle distinction was echoed during the symposium by the distinguished French theologian J. M. Garrigues, who proposed that the undeniable fact that the magisterium of the Church had been “silent” on the issue of religious freedom until the Second Vatican Council’s declaration of 1965 did not in itself affect the Church’s doctrinal authority. In other words, Garrigues proposed that although there could be no question that the implicit justification of religious persecution during the last millennium and a half was abhorrent to the Gospel and should be repudiated, this was not to say that the doctrinal authority of the institutional Church had been in any way directly implicated in the process. Many of those present, and the bulk of popular public opinion, found this argument unconvincing. Surely, if the Inquisition had been established and given special privileges by a long list of Popes, some of whom had also promulgated official bulls against heresy and witchcraft which condoned persecution and even death in cases of recalcitrance, there could be no question that the institutional Church was directly implicated in this shameful history. As the distinguished Jewish historian Carlo Ginzburg explained: in the face of these blatant


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facts, any papal “apology” for the Inquisition would ring as hollow as the 1997 “apology” for the Shoah, since it would amount to an evasion of responsibility. How, after all, could the dead forgive? He would much rather hear the Pope and the Church state clearly and unambiguously that they were ashamed of the Inquisition, instead of asking for an easy absolution that could not be given. Significantly, it was not just those who were critical of the Church’s past involvement in religious persecution who were loath to hear the Pope asking for an easy absolution. Many of the critics of John Paul II’s decision to apologise for the Inquisition came from conservative and traditional sectors. They saw the initiative as a naïve capitulation to the wishes of more progressive sectors who wished to see the Church acknowledge that the “structural sin” that the Pope himself had discerned in the world’s political and economic structures had always operated within the Church in very much the same way. Even more worrying to some was the implicit acknowledgement in any such “apology” that the distorted historical interpretations of the Church’s involvement in religious persecution, especially those referring to the Inquisition, were historically accurate accounts, when, in a good number of cases, they could be shown to be largely the result of prejudice and propaganda.


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The question is therefore more complex than it appears at first sight, and it is clear that it cannot be adequately addressed without some knowledge of the historical circumstances that led to the various justifications of religious violence in the history of the Church. More than ever, it would seem, there is a clear need to separate fact from fiction in the history of these movements. It is the purpose of this booklet to attempt to give some historical context to this delicate topic with specific reference to the history of the Inquisition.


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 As we have seen, in his address to the 1998 symposium J. M. Garrigues referred to the “silence” of the Church’s magisterium on the issue of religious liberty. Despite arguing that this “silence” did not directly compromise the doctrinal authority of the church, Garrigues nonetheless acknowledged that it left the door open to an implicit justification of religious persecution by the Church during a millennium and a half. Significantly, Garrigues used the term “political Augustinianism” when referring to this development. We need to begin by trying to clarify what this term might mean. “Political Augustinianism” At first sight, the term seems to imply that much of the responsibility for the Church’s implicit justification of religious violence through the centuries can be laid on St Augustine’s shoulders. It is true that, in the early fifth century, the great African saint developed a characteristically persuasive argument in favour of the forced conversion of Donatists - a sectarian group of Christians who exalted the note of holiness above that of universality and who maintained that there could be no


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forgiveness for those who had fallen away from the Church, especially in times of persecution. St Augustine’s argument - in effect the only full justification in the history of the early Church of the right of the state to suppress non-Catholics - came as a bit of a shock. Up until then it had been practically unthinkable for a Christian to advocate a policy of persecution. Indeed, St Augustine himself had only recently expressed serious doubts about the wisdom of such an initiative in the face of the large number of feigned converts who had joined the Church en masse after Christianity had become the established religion of the Roman Empire. It seemed pretty clear to him, in fact, that forced conversions were more than likely to be counterproductive and to lead to resentment and hypocrisy. The crucial turning point came when the Donatists were brought under the Roman Empire’s general laws against heresy by the drastic ‘Edict of Unity’ in June 405. After this, St Augustine was characteristically quick to see the hand of Providence at work. To object to the imperial edict, because it was likely to provoke more feigned conversions, now seemed to him to run the danger of denying that God’s grace could bring about a change of heart, even in those who had been coerced. After all, his own experience had taught St Augustine that there was an unbridgeable gulf


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between human circumstances and intentions on the one hand, and the invincible purpose of Divine Providence on the other. So, although he would always maintain that the final, individual act of choice had to be free in order to be effective, he also argued that, in many circumstances, such a choice needed to be prepared by processes which individuals did not necessarily choose for themselves. These processes, moreover, were often imposed on individuals against their will. To explain his position, St Augustine compared the predicament of the coerced Donatists to that of the Israelites under the Law of Moses. The Law, he explained, had been understood and loved by a tiny minority, who, nonetheless, had imposed it on the majority by force and fear. Yet, this blatantly coercive initiative had deterred the Jews from the worse sins of polytheism; as such, it had constituted the necessary preparation for the unity of the Church that had been distilled to the Jews of Jerusalem at Pentecost. This unity, moreover, had not been reserved for the spiritual few: it had been embraced by a large number of plainly sinful people, who lived at a moral level which was perfectly comparable to that of the ancient Israelites, and who would consequently still only respond to coercion and fear.


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The Reformation in England The events of the ‘Reformation’ led to centuries of bitter theological disputes, wars, persecutions and power struggles, and its consequences endure to this day. This booklet looks at the events which led up to the Reformation in Europe, and particularly in Britain. It shows how much that was good was lost in this conflict. CTS Concise Histories reveal the truth behind some of the most important and controversial events in the Church’s history.

ISBN: 1 86082 385 8 CTS Code: H 505


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The Crusades Recent world events, in particular the struggle against Islamic terrorism, have seen the word ‘Crusade’ appear in political rhetoric on both sides of the debate. Yet how much do we truly understand these medieval wars? This booklet looks at modern popular conceptions of the crusades and compares them with the aims and motivations of those who took part. There is also a timeline detailing the major events of this notorious period. CTS Concise Histories reveal the truth behind some of the most important and controversial events in the Church’s history.

ISBN: 978 1 86082 378 7 CTS Code: H 503


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